Meet Our Environmental Science Intern: Emma Gettman

When it comes to water quality monitoring, no one knows the waterscape better than Emma Gettman. As an environmental science intern at Clean Ocean Access (COA) this fall semester, Emma has helped to improve coastal water quality on Aquidneck Island through the water quality monitoring and beach cleanup programs.

Emma is an Ocean State native and loves exploring the underwater world day and night. Growing up in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, she remembers making sand castles with her dad and loves night swimming.

“I’ve always loved the ocean and wanted to work at an organization where I can help make a difference,” says Emma, who is senior at the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, pursuing a degree in environmental economics with a minor in sustainability.  

Emma spent a semester studying abroad half way around the world at Lincoln University in New Zealand, where she worked alongside PhD students researching genetic changes in soil microbes as a result of invasive species. Her genuine curiosity and scientific research skills led her to pursue an internship with COA in September 2018. In addition to monitoring water quality and helping run beach cleanups, Emma has also helped write reports, enter data, and track marine debris collected in the marina trash skimmers.

A typical Thursday morning for Emma entails waking up in the early morning and driving out to different access points across Aquidneck Island, where she then collects water samples. These samples are then delivered to the Rhode Island Department of Health for further analysis and testing of Enterococci, bacteria found in human and animal intestines that indicate the presence of fecal matter and potential risk of harmful diseases in water systems.

COA has been monitoring water quality year-round since 2006, helping to improve water quality in our favorite swimming spots around Aquidneck Island. In fact, COA volunteers and environmental science interns, like Emma, continue to monitor water quality September through May, when state-wide monitoring is not performed.

“I’m interested in advancing a sustainable and healthy environment, and I enjoy learning about different conservation strategies,” says Emma, who will be graduating from URI this December. After graduation she hopes to do more traveling and engage in environmental work that allows her to continue educating the public about environmental sustainability.